CI: opportunity number one in the next economy. John Nolan, Chairman, Phoenix Consulting. firstname.lastname@example.org
In the first article of this series I provided a general introduction to the opportunities that present themselves to CI professionals in the Next
Economy, in addition to the traditional rules of turning information collection and analysis into actionable intelligence products. These opportunities focus on the CI professional’s role in the protection
of the firm’s intellectual property.
At the close of that article, I listed five separate areas – five identified opportunities - under the title “Who Better Than You?” This second article covers the first of those opportunities: the ways in which CI professionals are ideally suited to assess what actually needs to be protected.
Fundamentally, I’ll be trying to get you to think in some directions beyond where you may have operated previously, directions that I have seen the more sophisticated and forward thinking CI professionals taking. These practitioners are finding new and perhaps more relevant ways to contribute to their firm’s business success and add value to the CI teams that they lead.
A simple caveat, however: you won’t see the names and organizations of those who are making such contributions. Those intelligence professionals who are expanding their operational reach recognize the value of discretion more than they ever have in the past. In fact, their contributions on both the collection as well as the protection side of the equation are treated as confidentially as any other significant asset of the enterprise. This is another affirmation and clear recognition of the competitive value of intelligence itself. Outside looking in
To start, it is useful to put yourself in the position of your peer at your firm’s major competitor. Once you imagine yourself to be in the other person’s seat, take a look at a business area in which your organization operates. Then drill down to a document, an event, or a process that relates to the front edge of your company’s activities.
Now it’s time to actually start thinking like your rival; taking an “outside in” view, if you will. The first question set, which begins with “If I were my competitor…” should naturally include:
- What would I do with this if I learned it about my competitor?
- What would it mean to me?
- What would it mean to my organization?
- How could my firm use this?
- What would my inspired leadership do with this if they had it?
Thinking along these lines will almost automatically drive you to the next level of outside-in analysis: the component parts, the signals, the indicators that you already look for in your own inquiries into the marketplace.
For example, you already look at a competitor through many different perspectives. You examine their strategic relationships. You wonder why they are hiring more people of a different background than they have hired before. You look at their financials and make certain extrapolations from the available data. You try to determine patterns in their pre-launch activities so that you can anticipate their next venture.
Who besides your competitors is looking at your firm from that same perspective? Until someone at your organization uses this approach, you’ll never really get a start on covering your intellectual assets. Here’s a money-back guarantee: your security organization isn’t doing it, largely because they’re up to their armpits in other problems. They also usually lack the clear business focus that you bring to the table. KITs and KPTs
The key to this process is relying on what you already know. In all probability, you are using an inside-looking-out process to develop your Key Intelligence Topics (KITs). As a successful CI practitioner, you refine these KITs further into Key intelligence Questions (KIQs). It should be easy for you to keep this process in mind, as the clear linkage between collection activities and protection activities emerges.
Our outside-looking-in approach becomes more focused as we develop Key Protection Topics (KPT) and Key Protection Requirements (KPR). Just as Jan Herring’s seminal formulation of KITs and KIQs is expressed in terms of questions, so too are KPTs and KPRs. Fundamental to either expression is a needs determination, whether we’re talking about collection or protection. In the latter context, we define those topics or elements that are important to management at a macro level to protect; at the micro level, we’re defining the requirements or questions in terms of those indicators of activities that are subordinate to, and indicative of, the overall topic – those pieces of the mosaic that are stitched together to provide the final product.
Essentially, we can see the difference between KIT/KIQ development and the KPT/KPR development at the initial starting point of both processes: at the level of tasking. Perhaps you’ve used that old shorthand at the outset of a KIT development meeting: “Boss, what is it that keeps you awake at night wondering what our competitor
is going to do?” And then you’ve gone on to develop what his or her actual needs are as tasks that require answers.
There’s a parallel shorthand question that helps frame the protection side of the equation: “Boss, what is it that keeps you awake at night, fearing that our competitor is going to find out about before we
do it?” This then sets the stage for beginning the protection process with topics of its own, and then drilling down to the individual requirements that needl to be screened from view lest they contribute to that greater mosaic. Compare and contrast
To shape this a little better, let’s go back to those wonderful days of yesterday as undergrads and apply that old tried and true “Compare and Contrast” approach. Putting KITs and KIQs up against some candidate KPTs and KPQs should get the job done.
To depict the scale differences compare a sample KIT to a sample KPT
KIT: How will our competitors control costs?
KPT: How vulnerable is our new product launch?
Similarly, then, look at sample KIQs and sample KPRs for illustration:
|Which customers are actually interested in controlling costs?
What have they done so far?
What is the likelihood of implementation?
What is the likelihood of actual savings?
|What are the critical differentiating elements?|
How long do we have to protect which key elements during pre-launch, launch, and post-launch phase?
Who are the rivals most likely to be able to disrupt our plans?
At what points (internal or external) will our rivals attack the organization to gather information?
Once you go through this process, seeing things from the outside, you will probably never look at your own business functions quite the same way again. You’ll wonder about your own vulnerabilities each time you develop KITs and KIQs to support your own decision-maker. Perhaps you’ll even step out of your box and launch a small attack on yourself, just to test how much of your own information is seeping out.
But that’s a topic for another time and another day. Background:
John Nolan is chairman of Phoenix Consulting Group in Huntsville, AL and a co-founder and faculty member at The Centre for Operational Business Intelligence. His 22-year federal intelligence community career spanned assignments in intelligence collection and in counterintelligence special operations in Asia, Europe, and the United States. He has authored more than 100 articles and monographs, three books and has contributed chapters to six others, and has made more than 300 presentations and workshops at national and international professional meetings, almost exclusively in the intelligence and counterintelligence disciplines. The center of his life has shifted from Helen and their four children to 3.5 grandchildren – thus far. A continually growing commitment to religious activities has gradually replaced other passions such as competitive soccer, racquetball and golf – and he now wastes the remaining three hours each day with either sleeping or genealogy.
Copyright Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals
SCIP.online, volume 1 number 10, June 4, 2002